The Future Of Storytelling In Digital

Image courtesy: Geograph (Creative Commons)

Anyone can tell a story, but it is only a select few that can forge a bond between themselves and their listeners, and really tell a story. It’s much the same with brands; there are those brands that we couldn’t imagine our lives without, and who form a major part of our daily lives, and those who we would quickly forget about the moment something cheaper or more convenient came along.

I love this line from Adam Gopnik’s post ‘Can Science Explain Why We Tell Stories’:

‘Stories, more even than stars or spectacle, are still the currency of life… There’s no escaping stories, or the pressures to tell them.’

You can’t argue the fact that we all love a good story and in business, storytelling has become an invaluable part of the customer experience, especially in digital. But what exactly does its future hold? Obviously the days of Neanderthals clustering around the camp fire are long gone, as are (I’m sure), the traditional family dinner at 6pm. And while we still rely on our peers for information, it’s usually over a text message or a tweet, as opposed to a phone call. So do we need to be telling our brand stories differently?

Storytelling: Engagement And Connection

While certainly the days of brands talking at us over traditional media have long passed, we’ve come to expect more from the companies we support and recommend. We no longer want to engage with brands that lack depth and meaning, and as Trendwatching put it in their April 2012 Trend Report, Flawsome:

‘…human nature dictates that people have a hard time genuinely connecting with, being close to, or really trusting other humans who (pretend to) have no weaknesses, flaws, or mistakes.’

And it’s the same with brands and products that we use, wouldn’t you say?

I find the way we’re beginning to engage with our tech, as well as what we expect from said tech, incredibly fascinating. Without a doubt, the days where we passively accept what we’re reading without wanting to engage further with the content, are gone.

The Four I’s Of Storytelling

In Latitude’s 2012 research paper, ‘The Future of Storytelling’ they discuss what they believe as ‘the four I’s’ of storytelling that will bring stories alive in the future:

  • Immersion: can I go deeper into the story-world, by learning more about it or be heightening my sensory experience of it?
  • Interactivity: can I change or influence elements of the story? Can I interact with other people around the story?
  • Integration: is a cohesive story being told across platforms? Can I interface with the real world in any way?
  • Impact: does the story inspire me to take action in my own life, such as making a purchase or supporting a good cause?

Maybe it’s the simplicity of ‘the four I’s’, but I love this paper and the information it holds. It’s completely inspired me to relook the conventional story, and the way I judge brands and their stories.

Transmedia Storytelling In Digital

We’re moving into an era that is more than just curating content and pasting the same message across all your channels. We’re going to need to learn to break our stories into their separate storylines and distribute those elements across the appropriate channels and make sure they fit the medium on which they’re being told. Henry Jenkins coined the term Transmedia Storytelling in his book Convergence Culture and this is exactly what we need to start considering in the stories we tell our customers. To quote Jenkins,

‘Transmedia represents the integration of entertainment experiences across a range of different media platforms… [and] immerses an audience in a story’s universe through a number of dispersed entry points, providing a comprehensive and coordinated experience of a complex story .’

And even though this term has been around for a while now, I’m sure that there are only a handful of individuals and brands getting this right. It’s because it’s not easy and it requires talent, time and effort, all scarce resources. But in understanding the importance of storytelling, and how we need to adapt our stories to align with new media, we can begin incorporate the above into our strategies and truly begin to connect with our customers.

What do you think? How are you telling your brand’s story? Let us know in the ‘Make a comment’ block below.

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